Fireworks

2 excellent arguments for banning fireworks in Austin

2 excellent arguments for banning fireworks in Austin

Fireworks at Castle Hills 4th of July Freedom Festival
These look so pretty, even without an explosion in the background. Photo courtesy of Castle Hills

Fireworks are an essential ingredient of 4th of July — along with flags, hot dogs, and boating mishaps. The lights, the explosions, the brilliant displays of fire. Americans love their fireworks. From 2000 to 2017, use of fireworks in the United States doubled, according to The Conversation.

But fireworks present a potential fire hazard and have a hugely negative effect on animals. In 2018, some places are embracing new-technology alternatives to fireworks, and there are good reasons to follow their lead.

Drones not fireworks
In Colorado, the town of Aspen is counteracting the fire danger by swapping out fireworks and replacing them with drones. Armed with "swarming technology," drones are loaded up with hundreds of LED lights that put on a convincing light show without the noise or incendiary effects.

Aspen, like much of the Southwest, is currently suffering a drought. Texas is in a moderate to severe drought, according to the Texas Drought Monitor, with potentially dangerous grass fires starting to pop up around North Texas.

In Travis County, some vendors such as American Fireworks are voluntarily not selling certain fireworks even though a fireworks ban is not in place. Owner Chester Davis told KXAN that "we like to be good stewards of the county."

Shockingly, Texas law makes it stupidly hard to limit fireworks. Drought conditions have to exist by June 15 for county commissioners to impose restrictions.

Silent fireworks
Even if Texas enjoyed tropical conditions, fireworks are terrifying for many animals and represent a big disruptor for municipal animal shelters, which get deluged with loose dogs on July 4 and 5.

The problem is the noise. About 45 percent of dogs have a fear of fireworks, says Huffington Post. Dogs fearful from the noise hide, urinate, pant, drool, pace, shake, bark, chew, bolt, and get loose.

Animal rescue groups such as The Street Dog Project in Dallas come to loathe the holiday.

"We definitely see more dogs running loose around the 4th of July," says Street Dog Project co-founder Rekka Melby. "A few years ago on the 5th, I even had a dog show up right in my front yard, and I live in a neighborhood that rarely has loose dogs."

"The sad part is that shelters will be overrun with lost pets when they are already so short on space for the truly homeless dogs," she says. "It's extremely important that pets are wearing collars/ID tags and be microchipped so they can be reunited quickly with their families and hopefully avoid taking up shelter space altogether."

Melby says that ideally, pet owners will keep their pets indoors and accompany them outside even in fenced yards for quick potty breaks to help minimize the chances of anyone getting lost.

There are alternatives. In addition to drones, there are silent fireworks, which have become increasingly popular in Europe. Silent or quiet fireworks forego the noise to shift the focus entirely on the colors and lights.

One town in Italy is using noise-free specifically to ease the impact on pets.

Dallas Animal Services director Ed Jamison says that July 4 itself is a day like any other day — it's the day after that's a challenge. "July 5 is when we see the significant increase," he says. "Dogs that are not contained properly get spooked and run."

Jamison, who joined DAS in 2017, has been battling the city's ongoing problem with loose dogs, one that exists in other cities across Texas, including Austin. Wouldn't it make sense to eliminate an obvious contributor?